Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). The virus weakens a person’s immune system so they are not able to fight infections or cancer as effectively. Having HIV does not always mean you have AIDS, as it can take many years for people with HIV to develop AIDS.
HIV targets a type of white blood cell called a CD4 cell, which it attacks and destroys. CD4 cells are important for fighting disease, and when a person’s CD4 cell count is too low, they are more susceptible to illness.
HIV is contracted when infected bodily fluids such as blood, semen, fluids from the vagina, or breast milk enter a person’s blood stream. It is commonly a sexually transmitted disease, but can occur when needles are not cleaned properly or are shared. It can also enter the body through broken skin. In addition, a pregnant woman with HIV can spread the virus to her baby.
Symptoms of HIV generally appear after a person’s immune system has been weakened. The symptoms are:
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Unexplained weight loss
- Frequent fevers or sweats
- Persistent or frequent yeast infections
- Persistent skin rashes
- Short term memory loss
- Mouth, genital, or anal sores from herpes infections
Once a person develops AIDS, meaning their CD4+ cell count is below 200 per microliter of blood, the whole body and nearly every organ can be affected. The person can have the following symptoms:
- Cough/shortness of breath
- Difficult or painful swallowing
- Mental symptoms (confusion, forgetfulness)
- Severe and persistent diarrhea
- Vision loss
- Nausea, abdominal cramps, bloating
- Weight loss and extreme fatigue
- Severe headaches
HIV/AIDS medications are very powerful and often produce powerful side effects. They include:
- Diarrhea and abdominal pain
- Difficulty sleeping
While the effects of cannabinoid medication have not been studied for all of these symptoms and side effects, there are many reports that phytocannabinoids can be beneficial, either lessening the symptoms of the disease itself, or the side effects of the medication. Phytocannabinoid treatment seems to have a positive effect on stomach upset, abdominal pain, nausea/vomiting, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and headaches.
In addition, TAT (Trans-Activator of Transcription), an HIV gene, has been shown by researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine to be inhibited by cannabinoids. HIV has been able to mutate and reproduce itself despite the use of antiretroviral drugs. Soon, the HIV in countless numbers of patients will be resistant to conventional treatments, a huge problem for the whole world.